Off Season Shenanigans

Poof, 5.5 weeks GONE! In the blink of an eye it seems that December is lurking. I really like December, it’s a fun month! Looking back on the last month, I’m kinda wondering what on Earth I even did with myself. I wasn’t particularly diligent in any one area. I did get some home stuff done. Both cats are now current on their shots and on official weight loss food. The vet saw Grey kitty for the first time in 4 years and although I thought she MUST have a thyroid condition, it turns out she’s just fat. Apollo is also fat. We raise fat cats, we have no backbone. So, now everyone is on a diet.

The Wooden Bowl found it’s permanent location in our bed headrest. Please ignore the bag of pretzels and the bag of trail mix, sometimes I get snacky at night. Speaking of night, they are a lot more lively now that I don’t spend them in bed exhausted. We have been having oodles of family adventures and that has been SO MUCH FUN. We each take turns picking an adventure and then we pack up the car and off we go. We have tried to institute a no cell phone rule during the adventures and that’s made it extra fun. We even went to a chocolate festival, it was amazing and I ate like $50 in chocolate in like 90 minutes. Hooray for the off season! Being able to relax and engage with each other – man was that needed! I really love that Troy and Annie are so chill and easy going. I got the cream of the crop!

Ummm, can I get a woot woot for the Giants winning the World Series?! Thank you Punky for sending me a world series hat. The coolest part…they won on my birthday. I was so happy for all the people I have met this year that are associated with the Giants, they sure are some great folks working behind the scenes and I can’t wait to celebrate with them a little when I make my way back to the bay area for more training.

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Last weekend was Ironman Arizona. Never have I ever been so happy NOT to be racing! I knew a lot of people on the start line and had 5 athletes of my own out there towing the line as well. My new razor scooter got put to work, 27 miles I scooted on that thing in one day! Morgan and I scooted around all day chasing everyone we know around the course. It was great to see the Coach Muddy athletes knock it outa the park and to watch my own athletes lay down some stellar performances! My two girls Ellen and Mikki both ran 3:41 and 3:43 respectively off the bike and dang was I proud of those chicks’ run splits! Ellen missed Kona by one place with a 4th and I’m excited to see where next year will take her. It was great to hang with Mo a lot of the day and I roomed with Ali, who signed up for next year, and AZ will be her first. I’m excited to watch her progress through that journey next year!

Dude, the scooter is awesome because I can go around the course and pick up all the Garmin heart rate straps that people ditch when they are sick of them. Those things are like $70 and I’ve ditched my fair share of them running through aid stations. Into the washer and bam…all mine! Score. It’s also funny how many people throw stuff at me during the race and then I spend this week mailing little packages all around the county to return it all. Too funny! And again, I’ve had people ship me back stuff that I have tossed to them. It’s like Ironman karma!

I’ve spent a fair amount of time the last few weeks stalking the country of Norway via the internet. I have SO much to learn about the Norseman race course and google maps has been my best friend. I finally got lodging for the two days before and the two days after the race for my family and my crew. I’m so excited that Laura and Andrew from the UK are going to fly over and crew for me. They will have a 2 year old and a 2.5 month old by this August and I’m so excited to meet the babies! Laura and I trained in Kona together several years ago before we both had somewhat disastrous races and we haven’t seen each other in 2 years. This reunion will be so sweet for me, and I know that they will make the best crew a girl could ask for.

I’m still researching what Troy, Annie and I are going to do after the race but I know I want to SEE NORWAY! When Annie and I were in Disney World this year we watched a video showcasing Norway and all I can think of is hiking hiking hiking. Annie is going to need to do some serious training this summer so she’s fit and ready to keep up with post Norseman mom and dad. I really want to go to the Trolltunga, and also to Preikestolen. Huge rocks, epic views!

This is what I look like most the time when I am researching Norway and trying to pronounce all the Norwegian names for things. This is also what I look like when I am trying to convert American dollars to Norwegian krone. So confusing! Eventually I know it will all come together and we will have an epic trip, but in the mean time I expect to have this face for a few more months. I read one blog of a family who did a camping vacation there and food was so expensive that they literally bought 8 steaks and cooked one caveman style over a fire every night. I have no idea what else they ate, but every night they had a steak on the campfire. Note to self….bring lots of bars.

My dog and I have been attached at the hip for 5.5 weeks. When I leave the house and don’t take her, she sits at the front door scrunched up in the little corner looking out the front door window and she waits for me to come home. When I’m home some part of her is touching some part of me 24 hours a day. She loves her mama. I never knew she could be such a cuddle pup but she sure is. When I took Annie to Glenwood Springs for her birthday to soak in the Hot springs I didn’t dare leave her home. 8 hours in the car that day, and Lolli was happy as a clam. And look at how cute my munchkin Annie is getting. She is a happy girl, and she’s 9 now! Also, I looked a little into modeling and I think she is too tall to be a child model. So we decided we will wait until she grows up a bit more and then look into our options. Annie just has one of those photogenic faces and she’s long, tall, a great traveler, and great with people.

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While I did take a huge break from swim bike and run this off season, I did not take a break from my BUTT! I have been really diligent this off season on continuing with my glute and core work with my trainer Jenny. She has this class that I take 2X a week where we spend an hour just strengthening our whole hip region and our core. I have been in this class for 2 years now and it’s amazing how much progress I’ve made. It’s always crazy when someone new shows up to class, usually a triathlete and they are doing the exercises for the first time. Oh lordy! Knowing how to fire your glutes first and foremost, thus lessening the dependence we tend to have on our back and hamstrings has been such a game changer for me the last few years. I also learned that “activating the hips” really just means “engage your butt” or similarly weak hips really means glutes aren’t firing. I may not look any stronger, or have any sort of well defined abs (genetics and body fat %), but they are strong and they are functional.

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Okay, I am so hesitant to share this next thing. Half of me wants to keep it all to myself, but sigh, that’s just not me, now is it? My friend Matt sent me the best book! I have had so many ahh-haha’s from this resource. As a coach I have watched some of my athletes never have to foam roll a day in their life, no injuries, no issues. And then others ones are just on the thing all the time. I have often thought that there has to be a better way, there has to be more information about what we should be doing for consistent body maintenance.

“If you’re going to make the demands on your body that being an athlete requires, then it’s your job to support that body” –Dr. Kelly Starrett

I totally agree, but the devil is in the details. I think we all agree that foam rolling is a generally accepted “good practice” and that just straight up stretching is a “heated topic.” I like this book so much because it really walks you through figuring out where you are week and how that general body maintenance can be steered to minimize those problem areas. I found out that I am the queen of Plantar Flexion, but have a long ways to go with Dorsiflexion. My Hip Flexion is amazing, especially with all the Jenny work these last few years, but my Hip Extension is ridiculous. Like, really bad. The “couch stretch”…eye papi! Needless to say I devoured this book and have already gone through it like three times to reread the parts I needed more help with.

Me attempting the couch stretch  (you’ll have to get the book) and of course the dog must be involved. She totally scrunched herself into that tiny little corner while I was stretching. I think all the moans and groans had her concerned. Oh Couch Stretch, you are my nemesis!!!!

2015 is going to be the year of awesomeness and I had so much fun putting together my race and travel plan for the season. The entire spring is going to involve a ton of running. I’m very excited to get back to my roots and I’ve already spent some time on my favorite trails! I signed up for 2 ultras this winter that I’m nervous, scared, and excited for. It’s been years since I’ve raced this long and honestly, I pine for it often. When I am running in the hills it’s a very zen experience for me. The time flies by and I love leaving the rigors of pace this and pace that. Sometimes you run 14 minute miles and sometimes you fly downhill at 8 minute miles. Constantly watching where you are stepping with my favorite tunes in my ear is basically like ice cream for me. I bought myself a pair of Hokas for the trails this winter, didn’t know what to think, but common, they are hilarious and cloud like, and amazing all at ones. So, Hokas in the trails, New Balance flats in the gym, and my Kona kinvaras for kicking around.

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Between now and April I’m going to do a 1/2 marathon in December, a 50k in Cali in January after the Coast Ride, a 100k in February that has me scared, another 1/2 marathon in March, and then Boston in April. It will be nice to get a solid 5 month running block in. After April I will be happy and content and can start spending day and night riding my bike through the Colorado mountains in prep for Norseman. Also, the 100k in February is a qualifier for Western States. Only the top 2 get a slot, therefore this race is the one I go to bed at night dreaming about. I have wanted to race Western States since 2008, and I’ve always said I can’t go for it until I take a break from Kona. So, I’m going to train hard for the 100K, and see where it takes me! Life sure is an adventure, I can just never predict where it’s headed, but it always ends up being AWESOME!

 

Ahhhh What Now

You know what happens when you are trying NOT to think about something? Now add to that, trying not to think about something AND having oodles of time on your hands.

You pretty much just sit around thinking about what you aren’t supposed to think about.

After Kona, the idea was to rest, let everything sink in, don’t worry about the future. Ha! Between the seasonal effective disorder I experience every year, my birthday and the realization I’m getting older, some pent up issues I ignored through the Ironman build, and very little endorphin highs, I was sliding off the deep end. Depression set in nice and strong. Ahh, lovely.

I have gone to Kona the last 5 years, and I have also structured my years around qualifying for said Kona and then racing well there. At the end of this season I refused to think “after Kona” thoughts because I wanted to put all my energy into doing well. So after the race was over, I felt a little empty, and lost. I have had a set north star in front of me for so long and I’ve let it guide most of my decisions. What now?! Muddy totally warned me that this would happen.

This year’s Kona push felt like the end of something. I did things this year that weren’t sustainable long term, like being away from home, dedicating lots of $$ resources, cutting back my number of coached athletes, training like a pro. They were shorter term, end game decisions. When I was on the Kona course this year I felt like I wouldn’t be back in 2015, but when I got home and even thought about not being there next year I cried huge fat tears. I really love that race.

Sadly, I know that I hold onto it for more reasons than I like to admit. The race has given me the opportunity for focused purpose. I liked that. Sometimes I’m afraid I won’t remain active without that purpose (the last 4 weeks have been evidence of that). I feel accomplished when I tell people I’ve raced Kona 5 years in a row. I have an ego, it exists, I admit it.

But both Muddy and I knew that at least for this year, an emotional break was in order. He didn’t tell me flat out No, because he’s not like that, but we both knew that this was a good time to take pause and reevaluate. There is a bigger picture to be had here, and long term emotional health is important to me too.

Still, I was looking for something to do with myself to keep busy and if I wasn’t going to go all Kona next year, I wanted some adventure in my life. I love to travel, I love to travel to races, I like to see new places. I was scanning the list of Ironman races and I settled on IM Taiwan. Sounded like a fun adventure, I have good friends who are living in Shanghai who agreed to help me make it happen. Muddy gave thumbs up because I just wanted to go on an adventure. But in the back of my head I was nervous about what I would do if I raced well enough to get a Kona slot. I couldn’t reliably see myself turning it down.

Then something kinda magical happened. The day of my birthday the Norseman lottery application period opened. I spent the night before watching all the videos and reading some blogs. I knew about the race, had watched with interest this year when Maggie got second (read her report, it’s awesome), and was pretty intrigued. I just envisioned all the training I would get to do for a race like that and just how well it suits those of us from Colorado where I have 54 unique opportunities to end my bike rides with a run up to 14,000 feet. I got really excited.

I asked Troy and Muddy if it was okay, and then I applied. They have about 2,200 people apply and they can only accept 260 athletes. This race has no aid stations, you have to bring a support crew to attend to your needs out there. They reserve 15 male, and 5 female elite slots that you can apply for if you meet the minimum standards. I met them with flying colors so I applied for one of those. Then I waited, still rather sullen, but a little spark was lit within me. I had this deep inner feeling that they were going to accept me. Not because I was super qualified, but just because I really felt I wanted it, and I don’t know, I felt good about it. I knew that a break from Kona was good for me and I knew that if I got into Norseman, there is zero financial probability of me going to Kona as well.

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Then one day before they were to announce the lottery results, on Nov 8th, I woke up like I had come out of a fog, Troy even said, you are so peppy today, yea!! Later that day I get a congratulatory text from my big brotha’ Beeson. I responded “???” and he told me I was in! He saw the press release well before me. I was ranked 3rd behind last years winner Line Foss, and multiple Ironman champ Heleen Bij de Vaate who has gone like 9:16 for IM distance recently. I felt honored. Also ranked 4th nd 5th were Charlotte Knudsen and Kristin Lie, both Norwegian ladies and veterans of the race.

I was the only American in the Elite selection for men or women. THE WHOLE OF USA is on my shoulders!

The moment I found out I literally FREAKED out. Honestly, I surprised even myself as I ran around squealing and jumping and smiling. Just being selected felt like such a huge win.

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So, if you ask me “What next?” I shall say Norseman. A race that is half way across the world, against 260 folks, mostly tough sturdy Norwegian men (only 41 women on the start line), that ends by by running (errr…walking) 5,000 feet up a mountain. There are no prizes, no money, no trophies. You either make it to the top and get a black shirt, get turned around on the climb by race officials and end up with a white shirt, or don’t make it at all and get no shirt. That’s it. It’s raw, it’s hard, it’s cold wet and windy, it’s a family community of a race, and there are naked people in transition. This is what I know!

For me, the excitement comes from the thrill of the adventure. Pair that with the tough training I get to do, and I’m a happy girl. I’m going to Norseman to give my absolute best to get through the race with a smile and up that mountain where I hear there is hot coco and waffles at the top (as long as you bring cash for them), but I plan to have a lot of fun along the way this year. It lets me breathe a bit and get back to my trail running, mountain climbing roots. It also give me some space to work a bit closer with my athletes this year, and Muddys girls team as well. That really feels awesome.

I plan to mix in some races that help me get tougher this year along the way, and I want to have some epic training days and trips this year in the mountains I love so much. As for what happens after Norseman, not a clue. And for now, that’s A-ok.

 

 

Kona 2014 (and way before that) Thank You!

I’ve been thinking about this blog post for a long long time. Several months ago, on a long and lonely run, my brain was drifting as it likes to do and I was thinking about what it would feel like to meet my goals in Kona. Whether it was an AG win, or a bowl, both outcomes I dreamed about daily, how on earth would I thank everyone who helped me get to that result? I had this idea that it would be cool to cut my bowl up into a ton of pieces and mail one piece to each and every person whom I thought helped me get there. I liked that idea a lot.

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Then it happened, a race result that I had envisioned and fantasized about for years, 2nd in the world, and well, that bowl will remain intact at this point in time, I sleep with it, so yea, it’s not getting chopped up! BUT, I want to at least publicly (via the old bloggyblog) acknowledge those whom I wanted to send chunks out to. It really would have been mere slivers, because I have had so much help.

So this post is a really really long one. Maybe the longest one I have ever written. But to me, it’s the most important.

First off, I would have had his chunk of bowl dipped in gold and framed. My husband Troy believed in me much more than I believed in myself for a great many years. I have asked him no less than 1000 times “Do you think I can really do it” and the answer was always “Absolutely.” He helped me fund this crazy lifestyle, tucked me in, fed me, helped me, and reminded me over and over “You are a great mom.” Thank you Troy, on so many levels, love you.

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Annie, my daughter, is the whole reason I got into this sport in the first place and she was just a little 4 year old munchkin when I first went to Kona. She is an A++ traveler, and has never once complained about waking up at 4am for a race. She’s given me a wide birth and cheered and screamed for me the whole way through. I am so lucky to have such a great daughter. Thank you Annie, for being the special little girl that makes my world turn.

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Both my parents, Eric and Helen, and Troys parents, Roger and Marla, have supported me in various fashions from the beginning of my Kona journey. From letting me stay with them during large training blocks, to letting me vent and eat all their food, they have been there through the years. Both dads have taken oodles of photos, most the race photos you have seen have been from one of my dads. They have taken interest in my progression and success and I thank them for that. My extended family was also a huge part of my success over the last 5 years, my Uncle Norm came over from Oahu for all 5 of my Kona races and became a 70.3 finisher along the way (Honu!). Grace, T and Kyle were out on the course cheering for years and putting sponsor tattoos all over themselves! Uncle Kirk and Aunt Melissa have checked in often and sent huge cheers and good jobs throughout, as well as Uncle Tom and Aunt Katherine. Many kisses and hugs go to my grandparents as well, Donna, LeRoy, Gloria, and Bob (who has passed) were always sending love notes to tell me good job, thank you!

A huge thanks goes to Michelle, my PIC, my BFF for all the love and trust through these years. She’s been my girl through it all. 3 times we started Kona together, not to mention countless other races and travel trips. I feel most comfortable when I travel to a race with her, and training with her all these years has made it worth it. I don’t think I would still be in the sport if it wasn’t for her. Thanks PIC, love you, and really, thank you!

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So, I gotta admit, that when I first went to Kona I just wanted to have a great race and experience the hoopla! I actually didn’t even find the expo that first year, I thought the stuff at the King Kam was all there was. The first time I even saw past .01 miles on Alii was when I ran it on race day. I was a newbie. I came home that year and I remember Chuckie writing in a comment in my blog the line

Kona 2011: AG World Champion.”

That was really it. I read that comment and that was all it took for that goal to stick in my mind. Somebody, whom I admired, saying they thought I could get there, that was it. Little did I know how much of my life it would take. Many times I wanted to give up on that goal, so many excuses along the way. I can honestly say I had no idea how hard of a goal it was that I set in that instant. No idea.

And as I look back on the journey to what ended up being “near World Champion” I immediately think of the coaches that I’ve had along the way. The first coach I had was Steve and he taught me so much. My bike handling skills are pretty sharp for a girl (haha) and that came from him. Plus he instilled a never give up, never complain, never show your cards mentality in me and that has come in handy so many times through the years. He also didn’t want me to go the Ironman route, and thus helped me know what I was passionate about, and off I went down the Ironman route. What I thought was a difference in opinion turned out to really help me know what  I wanted. That’s well worth a chunk of bowl!

Chuckie V made a big impact on me, and he really birthed the bowl goal. I learned heaps from him, especially about how to build an Ironman athlete from the ground up, because that’s what he had to do with me. I still have yet to laugh as hard on a bike as I did with him, and he really spoiled me when it came to hands on coaching, riding thousands of miles with me in prep for 2 Konas. He’s a bit off the grid now, but I still have such fond memories of those years. I would send him an extra large slice of the bowl, which he would probably drop on some long distance trail and return it to the earth. Thank you Chuck!

I had a brief year with Dirk A in San Diego and I still refer to some of his bike sessions today. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that German accent on the phone reminding me over and over to be patient. I thank him for that message.

Then I found Muddy. I approached him at 30,000 feet up and knew I had to try to get coached by him. I would send Muddy a really large chunk of bowl, in fact, I bought him a bowl at Crate and Barrel and sent it to him. He adjusted my training to align with Kona. He’s watched the race in Kona for 20+ years and he’s had oodles of athletes race there and he knows what fitness and function the race requires. He was able to really hone my body and mind into the girl that was able to perform when it mattered. Mostly he got me to let go of the tight tight grip I had on my goals. He got the fun back into things, and he surrounded me with people who supported me in a big way. Muddy taught me to love triathlon, but not to need triathlon. I learned that it can be a vehicle for fun, and hard work, but that I’m so much more than my results. This really opened me up as a person. It made all the difference. He’ll be my buddy Muddy for life, thank you Mud!

Also a huge thank you to all the coaches/technician/fitters/massagers I have worked with along the way. I’ve gotten tid bits through the years from Mark Allen, Dave Scott, Dennis Mellon, Paul Godinez, Brian Stover, Mike Mann, Nick Levine, Josh Shadle, Karlyn Pipes, Jenny Schumm, Mario Fraioli, Scott Geffree, Byron Thomas, and Steve Portenga.

Somewhere inbetween family and coaching are a few special people that have really made an impact on me reaching my goals. A special thanks to Andrea Watkins for really helping me dig into my inner self. When I think of strength, I think of you. Hillary and Ben Saunders, thank you for always being my unconditional family, and lastly thank you Coach Barbara Olsen who does so much for so many of us, including loaning out the person who is most special to her.

My family and coach got me to that line this year, but I would have been naked had it not been for my sponsors, both past and present. I’ve really navigated the waters of sponsorship these last five years and so many individuals have stepped in at various times to help make my training and racing a bit easier.

Charlie Patton with trakkers (and Rev3) was one of the first people who gave this girl a kit and said “race and have fun.” He’s been so supportive and feels like a family member. He also introduced me to many amazing people in the Trakker/Rev3 family that helped with love and support through the years. All my old Trakkers peeps, thank you! Sharpie, thank you for your love.

Kompetitive Edge sponsored me for several years and I learned so much about the industry and the products within it from them. A huge thank you to Jared Runyon for his therapy sessions and all the great gear. His text was one of the first after Kona this year even though he isn’t associated with KE any more. Thank you as well to Ryan, and Brandon through the years and for all the help you provided.

This past year I was sponsored by Tribella, a women’s triathlon shop in Denver. I feel like I have finally landed at “home.” James and Liz are so unbelievably “on the ball” and my bike runs like butter after TLC from James. They helped with shoes and clothes, and suits, and anything I needed this year, always supporting me when I needed something on a short time frame. Thank you Tribella, it’s nice to have a permanent home triathlon shop.

Its hard to say that I am sponsored by Quintana Roo. I really feel more like I am QR family member. My first year in Kona I wasn’t on a QR, but I was for the next 4 and I’ve just gotten faster. But it’s been more than that. They are at every Ironman and the booth just becomes my home away from home when I’m at a race. They are my family, they have looked out for me since day 1, and I will be with them as long as they will have me. The family that races together stays together. Thank you QR, love you all! Mac, Brad, Trea, and Peter, thank you for believing in me.

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Ron with Punk Rock Racing has really hung with me through all these years. He’s taken more than a few teary phone calls, and still keeps shipping me gear. Thank you Ron for your support, you’ve had my back through it all, it’s meant so much.

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I’ve had a few nutrition sponsors through the years and I really would send each and every one a bowl sliver for their help and awesomeness. Arshad at Amrita, Robert at First Endurance, and Stacey at Osmo have all helped me craft many a nutrition plan along the way. I don’t think the perfect plan exists, but they have increased my knowledge through the years ten fold. As has Dina Griffin with Fuel4mance who really educated me on metabolic efficiency, game changer, thank you! I also want to thank HolisticGuru (she has a name, it’s Christine) for the work she did with me as well. I still think about yin and yang foods. Justin’s Nut Butter and Love Grown Foods helped in those early years as well.

Also, I want to give a big thank you to a future sponsor. Haha! Hailey, and Kebby and Reg at Coeur have treated me like a Coeur athlete all year long, and Jess, you too my dear, thank you! I’ve really felt included/loved/supported this year from your company and I thank you for that. You make the best sports bras, and I can’t wait to fall in love with all the other products. Thanks for making me feel special in Kona.

There were a lot of people that trained with me knowing that I was gunning for Kona. I’ve had the best friends and training partners in this sport and I’ve made a lifetime of friends spinning around on a bike. I really valued the fun I have had with all of them.

The brothers from another mother I have picked up along the way: Anthony Beeson, you’ll always be my big brother, Gui Dzwerik, you’ll always be my little brother. Jim Lubinski, I still laugh about all the slurpies we drank in Tahoe, and Joaquin, thank you for lighting that candle.

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My current and past athletes have been so supportive through the years, have had their schedules finished late, and always been there for lots of pre Kona good luck wishes. HUGE THANK YOU: Terry K, Chris B, Jen S (both of you), Jonathan V, Kelly C, Paul H, Prianka N, James the Cowboy, Emily S, Kristi McE, Danielle Od, Gretchen P, Katie I, Ellen W, Michelle B, Michael I, Page W, EmmyK, Jody M, Audra A, Ali V. And a super duper special thank you to Mikki and Mo, I should refund your coaching money because you support me more than I do you at times.

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Thank you to some special dude training partners and friends who have kept me laughing: Brian Brode, Tim Everds, Scott Binder, Wayde Jester, Terry Nugent, John Woolley, Nick Baldwin, Chad Holderbaum, Tyler Walton, Peter Atwater, Larry Mason, Keith Negri, Paul Thomas, Sean English, and Matt Miller.

I have to thank my family of training partners over at the Muddy House. They kick my butt and have made me strong! Thank you Muddy Crew: Rob D (really Rob, you have gone above and beyond) , Mike B (thank you for Kona and Tahoe) , Dan (we’ve had some great chats), Alli G (my girl), Brynje Enderle (thank you B), Dave M (I did it Dave), Christen D, Jen H, Ciaran (there are no words, luv you), Anne T, Erich W, Matt McD (and Marni too), Al (my homecoming king), Chuck B, Steven T, Damie R, Mary T, Eileen H, Deirdre H, Andrew F, and Reyna. I could not have earned that bowl without you all!

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And finally, thank you to all the KICK BUTT women I have met in this sport who have inspired me to no ends. They truly are “my people” and I am so thankful to have awesome girl power relationships with each and every one of them: Angela Naeth (huge thank you Ang, xoxo), Mimi Winsberg, Nicki Leo (it’s in you), Jen Schaffner, Erin Trail, Christine Gould (kisses), Katy Blakemore, Angela Bancroft, Nicole Yost, Jordan Blanco, Laura Mount, Laura Trimble, Liz and Bern Dornom (go twins), Gloria Petruzzelli, Beth Shutt, Christy Williams, Kim Schwabenbauer, Katie Thomas, Kayla Kielar, Kimberly Shank, Christine Scott, Bree Wee, Jessica Vitcenda, Jenny Harrison, Gaye Beckman, Rachel Ross, Beth Tennant, Susan Williams, Helen Cospolich, Donna Dewick, Bine Trujillo, Hana Sykorova, Sarah Jarvis, Kelly Williamson, Sam Mazer, Meredith Kessler, Jocelyn Cornman, Beth Gerdes, Michelle Orgill, Kirsten Smith, Melody Serra, Lauren Barnett, Hillary Biscay, Mary Eggers, Michelle Simmons, Wendy Ingraham, Libby Bergman, Malia Crouse, Nancy Scott, Kacie Darden, SheriAnne Nelson, Brittany Warly, Sarah Piampiano, Katie Kyme, Randi Strand, Kendra Lee, Jenna Gruben, Tawnee Prazak, Patricia Walsh, Haley Chura, Christine Kenney, Doreen DeRoss, Heidi Lueb, Kendra Goffredo, Whitney Garcia, Kathy Alfino, Ashley Johnson, Andrea Hopkin, and Amy Farrell. Thank you ladies, keep inspiring our future girls!! Keep kicking butt!

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And, if this was the Oscars, I would have been kicked off the stage long ago. This process and journey has been amazing and I’m excited to go through the “what’s next” phase. If I could do it all over again, I would, I definitely would, so the what’s next phase really just involves finding the next thing that deeply stirs my heart (and scares me to death). If there is a really scary goal that you have in your head, I would say to you, go for it! Shove that goal down somewhere deep in your heart where success is the only way to make it surface and resolve. I have lost friends along the way and I have gained friends. I have pissed off people, and empowered people. But that is life, and it’s messy when done best. All I can say, is to those of you who played a part, I thank you for making me the woman I have become.

Kona 2014 The Run

Into the T2 tent I had like 5 volunteer ladies around me. I was laughing in there with them, I think it kinda surprised them. I was in a great place, all was good. They put my Nathan fuel belt on me, and my HUUB race belt with my number. I threw my shoes on, grabbed my hat and glasses and said thank you as I headed out the door.

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My goal was to keep to myself, stay within myself, stay relaxed, and just run. I get out there and people are yelling my name left and right. I had SO much love out there, and I just smiled and relaxed and let my hands be floppy and RAN. I looked up into the sky and WOW, it was overcast. OVERCAST. Do you understand….in KONA….OVERCAST!!! Like not hot. I shook my head, looked at the volcano again and said “Thank you Madame Pele.” A windy ride AND an overcast run, she really outdid herself in my favor.

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Ali’i was very consistent for me. The miles ticked away and I just let them pass keeping gratitude in my heart. I felt good but stayed calm because I knew it would get hard soon enough. Muddy was checking in with me every now and again but he could tell I was just getting it done and he really said very little to me. The work was done, and I was good, so he just nodded every time. On the way back through town Annie came running up to me shouting “Mom, you are in third and you are gaining on second and she is 2 minutes up and you are doing great and I love you and you’re going to get a bowl!” Sheesh, I love that kid! Troy told me Gui, my brother from another mother was close and to go catch him.

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I saw Michelle S and she let LOOSE for me. So did Hilary, and Jordan and Jess. SO MUCH LOVE! Up Palani, man that never gets easier. I had gotten passed by a lady who wasn’t in my AG and I tried to run up Palani like she was but it was impossible, she looked perfect.

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And then the Queen K, oh the lovely Queen K. Those 6 miles to the Energy lab I don’t even remember. I tried to stay loose and calm and just repeat my mantras “loose hands, stand tall, look forward, go find Gui” and my mind got dragged off of them 1000 times, but I came back to them 1000 times. The ease of Ali’i was just poof gone. That Queen K is just so hard. I didn’t even watch the Pros coming the other way. I was in the “stare straight ahead and just make it to the NEL” zone.

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Down into the energy lab I enjoyed that mile. I saw Amy coming out of the energy lab and knew she was leading our AG and 2 miles ahead of me now. She’s an insane runner and I remember specifically thinking “girl is bad ass.” I hit the bottom and started to go from bad to really bad. I caught Gui and then pulled ahead of him after he gave me some great encouragement. I tried to count ladies in my age group at the turn around and thought I was in 3rd but honestly wasn’t sure because I just wasn’t feeling too well. After the turn around I got that “gotta poop” feeling and I started looking for the ladies behind me. This is a big no-no, I know I’m supposed to “look forward, not behind” but I just needed a little information. I thought I saw someone 1 minute back.

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I saw the portapotty and I literally was saying to myself “Would you rather use the port-a-potty and get a smaller bowl, or not use it and run with poop in your pants?” Seriously, those were my options. Bowl…or poop….Ahhh!!!! So I decided on a compromise. I would use the loo, but I would make it the quickest pit stop ever, I would time myself. As I ran towards it I had my shorts down before I even opened the door, I sat and MADE IT HAPPEN, and ran out of there pulling up my shorts along the way….28 SECONDS FOLKS!!!! New PR!

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I didn’t think I got passed so I tried to get back motoring along but I was not doing well. I felt okay for a few minutes but then, just ick. I ran out of the Energy lab and it took a lot out of me. I finally gave myself permission at the top of the NEL to go to Coke. I turned the corner on the Queen K, Haileys hubby Mark was there and was so good to see. I was hurting bad. The miles were 9:30s and I was thinking about the droves of ladies that were running me down, capitalizing on my melt down.

And then magic happened. Gui caught back up to me. He said “come on Sonja, let’s go” and I was like “I’m not doing good.” In my head I didn’t know if I was going to finish. I was in that spot where things are moving really slow, myself included, and I couldn’t come up with any ideas on what to do. He asked me “what do you need” and I was like “I don’t know.” I was seeing little firefly looking stars in my vision and had the “tunnel vision” thing going on. Gui was like “We are going to fix this, you are going to get your bowl”. At the next aid station, he took a baggie that he had and filled it with ice and shoved it down my bra top. That was AMAZING, it was so cold on my chest. Then he helped me get aid at the stations, forgoing aid for himself. He handed me coke and water, coke and water, coke and water.

Somewhere in here Caroline passed me, she’s in my age group. I said to myself “I’m in 4th now” and I was scared that 5th was coming for me. Gui’s girlfriend Katie rode up on her bike and Gui was like “Go ride back and see where the next girl is and come tell us” and she goes “Okay baby, I love you” and he was like “I love you too.” And even though I was in a bad way, my brain was like Awwww, that’s cute and I said to him in my tunnel vision stupor “I want a wedding invitation.” Haha! Gui must have told me 100 times, you’re going to get your bowl, and it helped so much.

Muddy checked in with us a few times, but said nothing, or at least nothing that I could remember, but that was probably just me. I barely could see straight and was so “in it” that I barely saw anyone around me. I remember Jess being there at one point and screaming “You’re going to get your bowl and it’s going to be a BIG ASS bowl” She actually screamed that, and it was the first time I though “She might be right.” Somewhere in there, I looked at Gui and said “I just pooped myself” and he said “It’s okay, you’re going to get your bowl.”

After 3 or 4 aid stations of the coke and water bit with Gui I started to come around. I started picking it up barely and Gui was like, “be careful, just keep it under control” but I couldn’t. I just knew I had to use every bit I had at the moment I had it and I ignored him. Then he screamed “Go get your bowl” and I left him. He hadn’t taken any aid for all those aid stations because he handed it all to me, which as I type makes me well up with tears. I’m an only child, but I have picked up brothers and sisters during my time in this sport, and Gui is really a brother to me.

So I’m still in a raw place but I’m going faster and it’s the last hill, the Dave Scott, Mark Allen one. I see Caroline wayyyyy up there. I can see her, she’s far but I just focus on her back and I keep trying to bring myself to her. Another girl is there with me, not in my age group but I’m hanging onto her shoulder because she’s so strong, her name was Martina, and she was really strong! She’s doing the work, pulling me up that hill. Going down Palani suddenly Caroline is right there and my brain tells me “there is a certain way you should pass her so she doesn’t come with you” but I couldn’t think of what that might be so I just slowly ran past her, like the slowest pass ever. And then at the bottom of Palani I started to get scared. She’s going to get me, she’s coming. Down Hulaiali I’m still shoulder to shoulder with Martina in the other AG and we talk a little. I tell her I just passed a girl, and she turns around and says “She’s not there” and I didn’t believe her. And she looks again and says “nope, not in sight” but I was still paranoid.

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We turn onto Alii and I see uncle Norm…barely. I’m still thinking I’m going to get passed. My brain says, you should let Martina cross first, she’s done all the work, but then my brain was like “But what if you ease up and the other girl runs you down?” My brain also said “you don’t get to enjoy Ali’i this year, you need to run as fast as possible to the finish line.”

So that’s what I did, I sprinted to the line. I cried, and I sprinted. I really really cried while sprinting. And then I stopped at the top of the little ramp, right under the arch, and I did a little jump.

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AND there were Pat and Tony!! They were volunteering at the finish line later in the evening but they came early to make sure they were the ones to put my lei on. And I CRIED!!! They hugged me and said ‘you did it” and Tony said “You are a champion” and I cried more. Then they handed me off to my catchers and I told them about the 5 times racing, and the 5 times trying for the bowl, and that I thought I was 3rd, and I was so happy, and 3rd was awesome, and then I cried some more, like lots more.

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I found Troy and Annie and they told me I was 2nd. And they rehashed it with me and told me how it went down. And then I cried again, like really big fat tears. I told Troy not to touch me because I was hazmat and he was like “go get in the ocean and wash off.” So I did that and when the salt water hit my undercarriage where the poop had chaffed me to high heaven I cried again….this time tears of pain and my vision went fuzzy.

I got out of there, found the secret shower in the secret bathroom and washed for a long time, changed my clothes, sat on the bench in the bathroom and cried, and then collected myself and went and joined my family. We walked up and saw Michelle come down Palani, she looked great, and I was so proud of her. We met up with Muddy and hugged a lot and I cried again, twice. I was like “2nd muddy, we did it” and he was like “guess we come back next year.” He’s going to regret saying that when I hold him to it!! hahah!!!!

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One last blog post tomorrow….maybe two…so much to say….

2014 Kona The Bike

The day before the race I told someone, maybe Ciaran?, that it was going to be a windy day. I hadn’t looked at the forecast or anything, but I just knew. About one mile into the bike Cowboy James passed me and said “I said you couldn’t pass me in the swim” ahahah!! The first 7 miles are just crazy and I think I drank an entire bottle of OSMO in those 7 miles.

Muddy was there screaming that I was 83rd. I thought, Oh boy, that’s a lot of counting! Going up Palani I smiled and sat up, knowing that this section of the race MEANS NOTHING. The one alarming thing was that my heart rate monitor wasn’t working. It just kept saying 63. In 12 ironmans, my HR monitor has never gone on the fritz. This was frightening because I can handle no power, in fact, I don’t even have power on the PR6 yet, but no HR was a pretty frightening concept, I ride by HR. Muddy isn’t really into the HR thing and whenever he can he tries to get me off of it. So I had done a fair amount of training, especially in the last month, without my HR monitor. Know thyself. I repaired it to the Garmin… no dice. And then I just realized…holy moly, this is supposed to happen! I have to do this on my own today. It’s a test from the triathlon gods. Do I know my stuff, do I know my body? Can I do this all on my own? The tri gods are telling me that if I want that salad bowl, I gotta go it alone. Once I had that little talk with myself, I was committed to riding by feel.

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The first 30 miles were a bit of a mess. There was a fair amount of drafting. You could tell people were sorting themselves out. There was a lot of that “early on the bike” energy where a chill pill would be a good idea for most. I went by my good friend KK and she was like “Sonja will show me how to pace this thing” and I’m thinking “no HR monitor….I don’t think I’ll be evenly pacing ANYTHING today.” I caught Ciaran and he was like “I don’t know who drafts worse, the men or the women.” That got me really laughing because it’s my 5th Kona and I know the scene. But I also know that by Hawi it’s a complete different story and that’s when the real racing starts.

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The wind was legit. Usually we start off the day with a tailwind on the Queen K. Not this year. There was a headwind the minute we hit it, and the more we rode, the stronger it got. When I passed Hailey she gave me this look like “Holy crap, and we exchanged a few words on just how windy it was” I didn’t worry about her though, because I know she always rides steady, well, and smart, so I knew she would come through fine.

Amy and I were going back and forth a lot and that was a good thing. She rides like a boss and if she and I lived in the same town I think we would ride together a lot. I also like that when I passed her she would get legal distance behind me before repassing, and I would do the same.

We got to one section after Waikaloa and the wind was trying to rip us off our bikes. It was gusty and we were going like 11mph. Worse than I had ever seen and here’s the crazy thing. I started laughing, like a serious case of the giggles. I looked behind me up at Madame Pele on the volcano and I said, out loud, mind you…”THANK YOU MADAME PELE, I WAS MADE FOR THIS.” I LOVE adverse conditions on a race course. I always perform better with adversity because if I’m good at one thing it’s staying tough when things get brutal. It was then that I knew Madame Pele wanted me to get my bowl, that she was looking after me today, that she knew I needed this sort of wind to separate myself from a big chunk of my competition. I thanked her every few minutes for the rest of the ride. And honestly, because of that, the ride became more of a spiritual endeavor than it’s ever been for me.

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The wind up to Hawi was all head (barely cross) and strong, as it was through the rollers leading up to Hawi as well. Thank you Madame Pele I said. I hunkered down and really enjoyed not having to look at my garmin. No HR, and on a course I’ve raced 5 times, I know every hill and every turn on that course and for the first time I could really just enjoy getting the most out of myself out there. Rolling into Hawi I was looking for my ditch tour guide CJ to show him I was wearing his ring. I didn’t see him, BUT, there was my Uncle Norm screaming at me GOOOO SONJA!!!! I was like “WHAT!!!! AHHH!!! AWESOME!!!” because he was the last person I expected to see up there. Then after special needs he was on the other side of the road yelling at me “you are in 8th.” I was stoked. I could work with that!!

Coming down from Hawi everyone around me seemed skittish and I put my head down, put it in my biggest gear and spun my butt off. Thank you Madame Pele I said over and over. This is about when things start to get hard and where I usually really key into my heart rate monitor and just try to drive it up up up for the last 50 miles. So without that to use I just repeated “Feet, form, focus, thank you Madame Pele” over and over and over 1000+ times. I did some back and forth with Andrea in the Aussie kit. She asked me “how’s it going” in her cute little Aussie accent and it made me think of Bern and Liz in Melbourne which made me smile.

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Eat, Drink, Feet, Form, Focus, Thank You Madame Pele….over and over and over, all the way home.

The wind was really interesting coming home. We had a 15 minute stretch, usually a headwind section, where I was going 38mph on flat road. I was in full tuck, taking full advantage, and then the road turned and I was going 16. It was just strange. The wind all the way back home was typical Kona conditions in my opinion. It didn’t let up after the airport this year, but I’m always prepared for that, and I was just so darn happy to have a challenging ride.

Some years in Kona are gazelle years, and some years are bulldog years. I knew if I waited long enough through the gazelle years, I would be treated to a bulldog year where I could thrive, and this year was just that. A bulldog year.

In the last mile a guy pulled up next to me and said in a European accent “You are a very strong rider.” In my head I added “for a girl” and told him “Thank you” I got out of my shoes and heard the cheers at the hot corner. I rolled down Palani, and huck my QR at a volunteer and take off running. Man, I’ve got that dismount down. All SMILES!.

Running through T2 no less than 5 volunteers said to me “Great smile” or “I love the smile.”

I really really enjoyed that bike ride this year. I feel like it was made for me and I was so proud of the way I rode out there without my HR monitor, just listening to my legs and my heart. It was awesome and I wish I could do it all over again. Also, I think the gap from the AG men was AWESOME. The first 30 miles were still a mess but I think that most of the ride was much more fair for us age group ladies. The separation was nice and I’m hoping they keep it like this.

2014 Kona The Swim

After a deep full nights sleep (I know, crazy right) my first thought when I woke on race day was “TODAY IS A NEW DAY!” and I went pee and packed my bags, made my bottles, and hoped I wasn’t forgetting anything. We headed down to the race, blasting the radio, singing at the top of our lungs. Troy/Annie and I parted ways with a kiss and off I went. Body marking was the WORST I have ever experienced at Kona. I literally felt like a COW off to slaughter in there as the time ticked away. The division of labor was WAY off, and it was stressful to be compacted too close to all the other super nervous athletes in a hot tent. I almost felt a bit of a panic attack coming on.

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Then onto the dreaded medical scale. 141.8. Wow, very much the heaviest I’ve been in Hawaii. I think a full 13 pounds heaver than the leanest I’ve raced here. But hey, I’m healthy and happy and it was the first time in months I stepped on a scale and that there is some serious progress.

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After I got out of there I literally had time to pump my tires, put my nutrition on my bike, go potty, put my swim skin on, have a last minute pep talk with Alex, and boom, it was go time!

Oh, but they had the MOST COOL Redbull dudes jump out of an airplane before the race. It was AMAZING and I was in the potty line at the end of the pier when they landed in the water not 15 feet from me. I was like “WOW that was AMAZING!!” and all the athletes around me looked at me like I was stupid. I wanted to be like “Dude, they have never done that before, you should think that’s cool too”.

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This year they separated the age group men from the age group women for the swim start. The age group men started 10 minutes before us and I was so excited about this. The men got off and we women got in to warm up right afterwards. They partitioned us off this year so I wasn’t able to swim over to Annie and Troy to blow kisses, I just had to swim straight to the start line. I lined up towards the right, towards the front and just soaked in the fact that it was all us ladies. I loved that.

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Instead of the start being mostly men with a few quiet pink caps, it was a whole group of women and they were cheering and telling each other good luck and just being strong kick butt women. It was just SO GIRL POWER and by far the most special Kona start I’ve ever experienced. With a cannon, off we went and it was beautiful.

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That morning I saw that a swell had come in, there was chop and swells and I knew it would probably be a tougher swim, but I felt like I swam great. I felt steady and strong. I found lots of great feet. I didn’t get beat up and I was able to swim the buoy line. I knew the course well and felt like I was in the right place and putting out the right amount of effort the whole time. It was also really gorgeous. I told myself a few times “this might me the last time you do this, enjoy it” and I did. I looked at the bottom when I wasn’t looking at the feet in front of me. I looked at the palm trees, I smiled at the scuba divers and I constantly came back to my cues “relax, pull, chest down”

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Coming in the final stretch I was right along the pier. I cut the final buoys perfect. Nailed it!! There were the steps, and an awesome volunteer was helping me out of the water. I looked at the clock out of the water (its impossible not to, its RIGHT THERE) and it said 1:10. And this was a little errie. When Dr.Steve and I talked through my race we talked about some hiccups that I might experience and one of them was “I get out of the water and the clock says 1:11.” So we literally practiced seeing 1:11 and releasing it. Mental training folks, ya gotta do it. It was written into my prerace script that I see 1:11 and I say to myself “It’s long, move on”. Then I get out and BAM…1:10!!!! Wowah…eerie!!!

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Also, I’m a big believer that we manifest what we think about and the more I realize this the more I see it in my life. Sometimes I call it Jedi mind trick. So after I said “It’s long, move on” I said to myself….”Duuuuddddeee, you made that happen….” but not in a bad way, just in a eerie way.

I ran through the showers and grabbed my completely empty T1 bag, then into the tent, off with my HUUB skin suit, into the bag and I’m outa there. I get to my bike, throw on glasses and helmet, grab the bike, and off I go. Huge smile on my face!

 

2014 Kona Prelude #2

Troy and Annie flew into San Jose Monday night of race week and the reunion was so sweet. Seeing them just filled me with joy and I was excited to head to Kona the following day. Rolling into Kona on Tuesday of race week I was tired. We put in so much training and we had been resting me, but I was still just tired. A little about that… I am robust. Have you all noticed? It takes a rather large baseball bat to take me down. But here’s what we have found…it takes A LOT of work to force adaptation out of me. Because I’m hard to beat down, it takes MORE training than most to get progress from me. So for me, volume matters. And there were some 40 hour training weeks. This FAR surpasses most all age groupers on the line, and is in line with many of the Professionals workload. I don’t want to sound strange or wrong here, and I’m not saying I wasn’t born with some talent in the endurance area, but I have really had to work for every ounce I’ve gained in this sport. Some compete at a really high level in this sport on 20ish hours a week, but I am not that girl. In order for me to get up there it seems I’ve have had to put in twice the normal workload. That’s why, for me, enjoying the training is so important.

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So we get into Kona and Tuesday was stressful. My bike was a mess from 4 weeks of being riden all the time and not seeing James at Tribella. It was an angry PR6! Between checking into our treehouse (yes, we rented a tree house up mountain, it was amazing), swimming, massage, eating, and building the bike, I was in a dead run all day and collapsed that evening from tiredness.

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Wednesday Michelle and I were planning to meet up after my coached swim with Muddy to have some much needed (for me) girl time and go through registration together. I woke up and I was tired. I didn’t want to go swim, just wanted to stay at the treehouse and eat pancakes, but I got myself together and got there for the session, although not my perky self. Swim was fine, met up with Michelle and now this is the craziest story:

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So at IM Boulder I was at mile 7 of the bike waiting for the racers to come by when I met Pat and Tony. They were the volunteers at that intersection and we hit it off. They are amazing people and we exchanged emails. Well, I walk into registration and sit down. The guy I’m sitting in front of is the same guy who checked me in last year. I tell him “you checked me in last year! You wrote two books on Colorado history and live in Highlands Ranch 4 months out of the year” He gave me this look like “Wow, you remembered” We were laughing, he looks up my name, and says, “You need to go to the PRO table” I give him the “utter confusion” face and as I turn around I see Pat (from Boulder) coming over with a big smile.

So I go to the PRO table and she has my packet and bag and everything all put together! I sit down at the table to sign the papers and we are so excited to see each other. She said to me “Did you get my email” and I say “no?!” And she says “I read your blog and I wanted you to know that if I had my life to do over again I would want to live it like you are living yours”. Then she continues to bless me with more compliments and yea, I started crying. There have been many times I wondered if I was a bad mom for doing all this triathlon stuff, or a bad wife for being so tired around my hubby or a bad life partner for not brining in more income. But a little voice in my heart has always said “Its okay, its okay”. In that moment, her words just struck a cord and I can’t thank her enough.

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I signed the papers and Pat walked me over to get my timing chip, and then she took me to another lady and said “Follow her”. I thought the lady was going to take me out of registration a shorter way, I was a little confused, and then the lady looked at me and said “You are being taken to doping control.” I was like “WHAT?!” and then I instantly got a huge smile on my face. My first thought was “Holy moly, they think I’m going to win” which was crazy because I spent the whole year trying to convince myself of the same thing!

Drug testing was exactly what you would think. I got tested by WTC and it was blood only. It took 70 minutes and I think I was the most upbeat and friendly person they saw all day. I told them all about the treehouse, my 5 years of trying to get a bowl. I told them my favorite joke “If I don’t get a salad bowl this year, I’m heading to Crate and Barrel). They were very nice people, and they love their jobs.

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I don’t have any reasons to worry that a test would come back anything but negative, but it is interesting sitting in that room, you can’t help but think….is Osmo safe, are picky bars safe, are antibiotics for the saddle sore safe? I can’t even imagine sitting in that room if you were guilty. Stay clean people! WTC knows that the AG population wants AG testing, and they are doing it! Two thumbs up!

So, my girl time with Michelle got blown by the testers and when I got out of there I had to cruise over to QR to get my bike, and then meet Muddy and others for my ride/run. I had a pretty craptastic training day. I felt tired and just kaput. I dragged myself back to the treehouse after those sessions and I was done. I was calling uncle.

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The next morning Muddy wanted me to call with my resting heart rate and we had a chat and decided I needed a Sonja day. Just a chill out, “what is triathlon?” sort of day. Our treehouse hosts made us lillicoi pancakes and told us about all these wonderful spots to go have fun.

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We went to a great beach, explored an underwater lava tube, and went on the Kohala ditch tour. We had the best guide CJ who gave me his Kona ring for good luck. It was a grand day and I felt so relaxed by the end of it. Just what the doctor ordered.

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Friday is always a nutzo day. There are sessions to get in, bike check in, bag packing, etc. I was running around a lot getting everything taken care of and at about noonish I had to pee really bad and needed to pick up breakfast for the next day. We went to Island Naturals and after I got out of the bathroom Troy said that the drug testers had called his phone and wanted to talk to me. They said “We are at the treehouse, how far away are you?” I told them about 20 minutes and they said “Okay, we will wait”. That stressed me out. We had to put our stuff back and jet back to the treehouse for blood and urine test from WTC. When we got there I was like “you all just wanted to see the treehouse” and although that wasn’t the reason, they were very excited to see it! haha! I had just peed at the store, so getting that sample took awhile, and I asked questions like “why a second test, why me, etc” but they don’t have any answers other than “you are on the list.”

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Then we had to jet back down to bike checkin. Ironman had forgotten to put into my packet one of the little pieces they wanted us to use to attach our bike number onto our bike. I figured I could pick up an extra at bike checkin, but of course NO. I ended up sitting in the sun sweating my butt off stressing about the bike number and worried that the way the volunteer had me put it on would get me a penalty and then the volunteer would be long gone. I asked to see a referee and they were not able to satisfy that request. It was just stressful, stressful, stressful.

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Finally we headed up mountain to dinner at my favorite place called Annie’s. I walked in there so tired and fed up that I ordered a cocktail. I’ve never had a cocktail the night before the race, but I had never been this out of whack before a race either. Back home at 7ish from dinner, I was exhausted from the day. I was so overwhelmed I couldn’t pack my race day bags until race morning. I also had to ask Troy to go to the store and get my breakfast stuff. He hates going out in the evening and he was tired too so I felt bad for asking. I collapsed into bed at 8pm, thoroughly wiped, and was out in 30 seconds.

 

2014 Kona Prelude #1

So before I get to the full blown race report, which is all written by the way, I thought a catch up might be in order. It’s pretty obvious by the date of my last post and the scarcity of blog reports this year that I’ve been quiet.

I always intended to write copious amounts through this process, to share what I was going though, etc etc, but as I got more committed and as the blog got more popular, and people had more opinions about what I was writing, and selfies suddenly became a no-no, I stopped wanting to share. It’s a vulnerable thing and the more I committed, the more my process/thoughts/feelings became personal. I found myself saying “I would like to write this or that, and I would like to be honest, but people are going to have a problem with it, and then it became “why bother.” There was a “just turn off the comments and take the contact me” off phase, but that felt strange, and I was busy, and so I just kinda let it be. This blogging stuff is strange business and I really am a fairly open book. But sometimes the hiccups along the way concern other people and I’m not really comfortable blasting other peoples business to the world. So there you have it.

It’s my blog and I’ll selfie if I want to…sing to “it’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to”

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In retrospect, I can look back and tell you all what I was up to. It’s never the whole story but I will try to be as open as possible with my race report, because that’s all me, and I don’t mind sharing the good, bad and awesome!

The 12 weeks before Kona I had some setbacks. Okay, let me back up a little. When I won the amateur race at IM Arizona last November Muddy and I both knew the single goal of 2014 was to win my age group at Ironman Hawaii. It was one of those goals that I could say out loud “I want to win Kona” but I really wasn’t sure it was even possible. People tell me those are the best goals, the ones you think might be a little crazy. But I figured that I had to commit as much as I could in order to even have a fighting chance. So we committed. Muddy committed, Troy committed, and I committed. I had always been committed, but we took it to another level this year.

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We structured the entire year around winning Kona. Every training decision was made around Kona, and every race we worked on a different skill or technique that we thought would help me in Kona. Most races this year weren’t about winning, but instead were about pacing, or fighting, or working on my mental cues. Tribella, QR, and Punk Rock Racing knew the big goal and they bent over backwards to get me everything I needed. I was on a QR PR6 for heavens sake, one of the first of QRs sponsored athletes to get one. They committed 100% to my goal along with me.

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I did well in my races this year and I gained momentum, learning lessons that I could fix for Kona. We were doing “it” one step at a time. Then the final 12 weeks came and I struggled. It was getting close and I was supposed to really be buckling down but I could tell my brain and body were wanting to self sabotage. I was afraid of failure and really had to reach deep into myself to remain confident and focused. There were more than a few sessions with a sports psychologist. Thank you Dr.Steve!

I had two set backs in the last 12 weeks that caused a lot of stress. Both resulted in 6 days straight of no training and many tears. There were times I looked at Troy and was like “There is no way I can do this, I don’t think I’m even going to make it to the start line.” It was a lonely time for me as I reached out to very few and I did a lot of soul searching. There was a lot of meditation and a lot of repeating motivational quotes. The second set back, a saddle sore that got infected and had to be lanced and drained was 5 weeks before race day and took about 3000 repetitions of “it will be okay” to get through. Especially when I walked into the doctor and she looked at it and said “Do you think you will be able to still race?”….I looked at her like “you’re supposed to tell ME that!!”

I rode this ride with two pairs of shorts and my saddle sore raging, the fever started that evening.

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After the saddle sore debacle Troy, Muddy and I had a sit down and decided to pack me up and send me off to Muddy for the final month before Kona. That really was the ultimate opportunity & sacrifice all in one. A month away from Annie and Troy, training really hard with Muddy. That was a big decision for us. It turned out to be a phenomenal experience for me. I got to put training 100% #1 “A” priority and I got to be Muddy’s sidekick for a month, getting mentored from one of the best in the world. I was nervous going but it ended up being totally awesome. Coach Barbara was my mom away from home and thank goodness someone was willing to watch Project Runway with me on Thursdays!

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Going into Kona race week I knew I had put everything on the line for the big dance. Every resource I had, I used. Every set back I used to buckle down harder and recommit. I had amazing support. From my coach and family, but also from some great training partners in Denver and San Jose. Everyone knew the bowl was the goal and so many people sent me off to Kona with well wishes, telling me “go get your bowl.”

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This last Saturday…well yesterday, I helped Erich during the Leadville 100 by pacing him from mile 50 to 72.5. Some might ask what pacing is? In fact, when I joined Erich at mile 50, this being his first 100 miler, he was like “I’ve never had a pacer, I don’t know what I need”. Hahah! Luckily I have done a 100 miler (4+ years ago…sad) and paced (2 years ago…Emily at Leadville…happy), so you know, I’m an expert (not). According to me, a pacer is just someone who runs with you during the hard parts, keeps you eating, drinking, moving, and mildly entertained. They are just a “more” sane person along for the ride and usually trot along beside or behind you. When I did Moab 100, they were my saviors. Michelle, Tony, and Keith still have a special place in my heart from that one day.

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Running along with Erich, he was doing very well. He is somewhat of a glutton for punishment and I asked him at one point why he was doing this race. He said that he searched out all the hardest endurance races in the world, made a list, and is going about doing them. What a man after my own heart. So he had done the Leadville 100 mountain bike the weekend before, and here he was pumping through the run. To ease your suspense, Erich simply gained steam through the race  (in comparison to others), although his speech did get more and more slurred and quieter, and he busted a major move going 23:23 and earning the coveted sub 25 hour buckle…by a long shot. At one point around mile 60 he asked me if I thought it was possible for him to go under 25, and I was like “Heck yea”. He did more than just that and his performance inspired me.

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So, I got to run 22 miles out in the woods. Okay “ran” is glorifying it a bit because at least half of it was power hiking, but all the same…I moved along the trail for 22 miles with him. It’s really rare these days that I get to do this and the only reason is that Erich is coached by Muddy and the guy needed pacers! Huge thanks to Mikki as well for pacing him for 14 miles after my 22.5 miles were up. Mikki is really one of the most selfless people I know and she’s always happy to run all night in the woods with a complete stranger who’s already run 72+ miles that day.

We ran along rather quiet for some long stretches of time…quiet for me, since I usually won’t shut up, and I got to tune out a lot of the distractions of life. When you are in the woods there is a lot of air. It’s clean air and smells like pine and there are no cars, and not many people, and it’s peaceful, and the colors are easy on your eyes. During trail running you mostly focus on where the heck you are putting your feet and it’s a hard enough task to keep your brain busy, but mindless enough to cut out most all judgement, or nervous thoughts. It’s easy on the brain, meditative, rejuvenating. I needed this. I’ve had a really tough last few weeks and I’ve been searching for that sense of calm and peace and just couldn’t locate it. My compass has been really off.

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Out there in the woods I felt like I got my ducks back in a row and Mikki and I talked the whole ride home about it. Granted it was 2am and we were pretty loopy, but sometimes those are the best conversations.

What is it about some days in our life? This was my ahh-hah. Most the days of our life, they just go. Poof, gone, no memory. We go through the motions just grinding through. Maybe we do it peacefully or calmly, but they still leave almost no mark. Then there are some days in our life, yesterday was one of those for Erich, that you will never ever forget. It’s just one day, just like the rest, 24 hours, just like the rest, but you will tell stories about it, you will savor it, and live it over and over for the rest of your time on the planet.

I think that most people don’t have a lot of these days. They are few, the marriages, the birth of children, some of the devastating days. But those days, when you do get them, they are the first sentences of the chapters of your life. That opening line. When I look back at my life that’s what these days are for me. With them came new awareness, about myself, about my journey, about my purpose. They foreshadow where I was headed. They are hardly EVER destinations, but more new beginnings of a new way of thinking and living.

Recently my chapters have been long. The highlight days have been more few and far between. The chapters are more developed, but they are long, and sometimes not heading the direction I hoped.

Getting out there on the trails yesterday reminded me that these big important days were always why I seek endurance sports. These experiences, however hard and brutal they may be have been the stars in my constellation, the highlights that form the picture. So to get off my lazy butt, I used this website to find hiking boots and went off on an adventure.

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And out there I realized that I want more stars, and I want a more detailed picture. I want to get back to my roots, and I really don’t like how sore I am today from my little jaunt in the woods yesterday. It was like a wake up call out there, a reminder of where my heart lies. Not just in ultra running, but training for and executing some hard gnarly days, record book days, stars in my constellation. And when I think about it that way, it’s easy to see the muck. It’s easy to see the times when I’ve gotten off base, and now I understand why those things have caused me so much angst.

Right now I’m training for Hawaii, my 5th in a row, and for 5 years it’s been my North Star, the dominant star in my galaxy, the one that everything else revolves around. But very clearly I knew out there on those trails yesterday that Hawaii will not be my North Star for much longer. Where am I headed exactly? Well, Kona for now. But then, somewhere neat and cool and different and fun. Towards other stars to enhance the constellation of my life.

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2014 USAT Age Group National Championships

I have this little saying.

When things go wrong, blame yourself, when things go right, blame your coach.

I’m not sure exactly what compelled me to sign up for AG Nationals. It’s an olympic distance race, a short distance that I don’t often race. I think I knew we would be working on my run speed and thought this would be a good place to work on that in a race setting. Muddy was all for it. Muddy loves the short stuff, no nutrition risk, just pure all out speed. Go ’til you blow kind of racing.

My opinions are more in the manner of “How do I will myself to go faster than I do in a 70.3?”

The travel to the race was not so good and I blame myself for this, I should have booked an earlier flight with less risk of delay being that I know we get a lot of afternoon thunderstorms this time of year that delay flights out of DIA. An extreme delay leaving Denver got me into Milwaukee at 1:20am and the rental car counter was closed so I had to go to the exit booth. The poor night shift lady there was not equipped to efficiently checkout cars but she tried her best. At 2:25am I was finally in a car and heading out of the airport. At 2:55am I arrived at my hotel. The night shift employee struggled to get me keys because it was so late…errr..early, even though I had called 5 hours ago to let them know what was going on, and they said “Okay, no problem, I’ll make a note”. Finally I just started crying. The tears were rolling and I just started begging him to give me keys. It worked and at 3:20am I collapsed into bed utterly spent.

I slept until 9am and then headed to the expo to swim and bike and run and check in and what not. I ended up riding the trainer at the Quintana Roo tent because I just didn’t have the energy to deal with the roads around the race site. I hung out in the QR tent most the day, with my BFF Sienna, and then headed back to my hotel to try for a good nights sleep. I got a decent 7 hours.

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Race morning I was really excited. HUUB had sent me a new wetsuit because I ripped mine at Boise (doh). I really should have worn it before race day because my first HUUB had taken some time to break in, but this one was BUTTER. I’m calling it my MAGIC SUIT because when I put it on it just fit me PERFECT and felt really good in the shoulders. I warmed up in it and just felt GOOOOOOD. Before I knew it we were treading water, waiting for the horn to sound.

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210 women in my age group at this race. That is LEGIT! I don’t think I’ve ever been in an age group that large. Lots of fast swimmers as well. Now we get to the part where I blame my coach. Muddy has been scheduling lots of swims these last few months. Lots of masters and 2X a week in the long course meters pool, which is painful for me, but oh so good. Then I actually got rest on race week from swimming. That’s something I’ve figured out over the years. I have to swim a lot to make progress, but I have to rest my swimming before race day to see that progress come out on race day.

And it did! I got on feet right away and I was such a bitch. I hit that poor girls feet every flipping stroke and when she made a funny angle I hopped on the feet next to her and I smacked those every stroke. I went from feet to feet and had to defend the feet I had claimed twice from poachers. I was more aggressive than usual and I was in a pretty substantial pack. Along the last 500 we started running into men from the AG ahead. I kept on the feet all the way to the exit ramp. Running to T1 I heard a guy yell to the girl next to me “You’re in 30th” and I thought to myself “Frick, I swam bad, probably a 25 or 26.”

HA! Wrong Sonja….22:42! 27th in my age group, and 149th fastest woman out of all the 1343 age group women. To be in the top 15% of swimmers in a National Championship is by far and away the best I’ve ever swam. So, again, thank you muddy for assigning all that yardage and thank you to the various masters instructors that have kept me working hard over the months.

Also, as a small aside, the first olympic distance race I ever did was Nationals in 2007 and I was 4th to last out of the water in my age group. That year Jenny Garrison won our age group and I was 22:30 behind her. This year Jenny Garrison won our age group again, and I was 4:32 behind her. Looking at the results from ’07 there are all sorts of famous people in it (all of them ahead of me): Bree Wee, Beth Shutt, Kim Schwabenbauer, Ulli Broome, Mary Miller…crazy!!!

Oh my bike mount….oh dear. I got my shoe caught up, I couldn’t get in it. It was a mess and took me so long I actually had time to think “Please nobody be filming this because I’m going to end up on a blooper reel.” That mount in and of itself should have prevented me from a  podium finish, it was atrocious and I need to work on those stat.

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Onto the bike, my first time racing on my new PR6 I might add, and Kristi yelled that I was in 17th? or 18th? or 16th? Something like that. By 7 miles in I had cracked the top 10. I passed a few more ladies and then it was just a lot of men from the AG ahead. My legs did not feel good and I think it was just because I was trying to ride so hard. I haven’t put in much hard riding recently so I know they were like “what the heck.” I felt a little like a baby giraffe at that speed. I feel very comfortable in the 22-23mph region, especially on my new bike, but get into the 25-26mph zone and I’m not as solid, a bit more herky-jerky. It’s a muscle thing, high watt, high heart rate thing. I tried my hardest and despite thinking that I could ride in the 1:01-1:02 range I came in at 1:03:27 which means I lost time to the leaders in a leg of the race that I was hoping to gain time. Why I thought I could ride 1:01-:02 I have no idea…delusional I think. It’s not like I had any data to back that claim. Note to my athletes – SEE, even I still struggle with outcome oriented thoughts at times. In retrospect I would say that 1:03 on that day was an all out effort for me and indicative of where I am at fitness wise at this distance, you never know until you race!

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T2 was smooth, thank goodness and I got out and running strong. No hat, no glasses…forgot both at home…along with clean underwear and more than 1 shirt…last minute packing! Kristi told me I was 7th in my age group and that 6th was 30 seconds up. I worked on settling in and getting uncomfortable. I felt heavy and was wishing I felt just close to how I feel when I’m running my track workouts, but instead I felt brickish. Luckily I have run several tempo runs these past weeks feeling brickish so I knew 6:40-6:45 pace could still be done. I was really hoping I could move into the 6:20ish range but it just was not coming despite me trying. At mile 2 I moved into 6th place and was looking for 5th. At the 4 mile turn around I took a split and she had 40 seconds on me. Oh dear, that’s a lot, but I went for it. At about mile 4.5 I started to feel some pep in my step, like “hey, I’m feeling warmed up now.” That was about the same time that I guy in front of me decided I was not allowed to pass him. I went right, he blocked me, went left, he blocked me. We bumped elbows, he yelled at me. I grumbled back, and he sped up. Oy, I really don’t mean to crush your ego bud, just trying to get the best out of myself.

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I pushed as hard as I could that last mile and a half and I could see her getting closer, but nope, she crossed 11 seconds ahead of me. 6th it was, in a new PR of 2:11:09. Andrea was pretty close behind me so we hung out for awhile after the race. She qualified for Worlds in Chicago too! I’m so happy for her!

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Well humm. There it is. Fast, short, and really questing for just one more gear. All in all, it felt great to step out of my comfort zone, to reveal some weaknesses that I can work on, and to get a small victory in my swimming. I feel like it’s been forever since I had one of those.

The race was run so well, after the race they had a super sprint and the highlight of the day was watching Jake race in that at 15 years old. His spot on the starting pontoon was next to Starky. What an experience for him. I also loved the time I got to spend with Sienna, she’s my favorite 7 year old and we had a blast at the Childrens museum after I finished my race. Poor thing was so patient all weekend even though she had been promised multiple times to be taken to the museum by her bro. Auntie Sonja is always good for fun stuff like that 🙂

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That evening Kristi and Sienna were so so sweet to sit through the 2+ hours of awards just to take my photo on the podium for all of 8 seconds. We finished the night off with burgers and I was treated to 3 hours and 45 minutes of blissful sleep before catching a 6am flight back to Denver. What a whirlwind!

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Huge thanks to Quintana Roo, who really has just become an extension of my family at this point. Hanging in the booth all Friday it was amazing to see just how much they bend over backwards for anyone who rides a QR and needs help. The service they provide to their athletes at the races they attend is akin to Kona treatment…but at every race. Such a perk!

Thank you Tribella Multisport, Osmo, Huub and PunkRockRacing for your continued support this year as well. And a huge thanks to Coach Muddy who really helped me thought the last few weeks.